For the first time, the Chicago Bears confirmed Tuesday that the stadium the team is considering building in Arlington Heights will be vaulted — but the team also called for taxpayer funding for part of the project, and indicated the plan was still tentative.
The Bears released illustrations of the proposed project, and a statement that was the most detailed to date regarding their proposal to purchase Arlington International Racecourse. She said the stadium would be “a best-in-class indoor stadium, providing Chicagoland a new home worthy of hosting world events such as the Super Bowl, College Football Playoffs and the Final Four.”
The 326-acre development will also include restaurants, office space, a hotel, a fitness center, and new gardens and open spaces.
The team estimated that creating the proposed project would create 48,000 jobs, an economic impact of $9.4 billion on Chicagoland, and $1.4 billion in annual economic impact. The team will not seek taxpayer assistance to build the stadium, but due to the economic impact, will seek public funding for the rest of the project.
“We are still under contract to purchase the property, but there are conditions that must be met in order for us to be able to close,” the team wrote in the statement. “if We are close to the property, it does not guarantee that we will develop it.”
Illustrations released on Tuesday show a map indicating that the stadium will be along Route 53 and the Mitra commuter tracks. The mixed-use area will be southeast of the stadium.
Two other illustrations show aerial photos of the complex, which will include many buildings along with the stadium.
The team has played at Soldier Field in Chicago for half a century, and pays about $6.5 million in rent annually. The lease runs until 2033, but The team can break the lease for 84 million dollars As of 2026. In July, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed options to build a dome over Soldier Field for $2.2 billion, without specifying how they would be paid.
In September of 2021, the Bears family signed a preliminary agreement to buy the Arlington site from track owner Churchill Downs, which closed the racetrack last year.
“We remain under the contract to purchase the property, but there are conditions that must be met if we are to be in a position to close,” the Beers couple stated, but they did not specify those conditions.
“While contracting with the Arlington Park seller, we will not discuss or explore any other alternative stadium locations or other opportunities, including the renovation of Soldier Field,” the team stated.
“If the team continues to purchase the Arlington property, and if the Bears then chooses to proceed with development of the property, the project will be one of the largest developments in Illinois history.”
The team predicted that construction would generate $3.9 billion in labor income for workers, with more than 9,750 long-term jobs, and $601 million in annual workers income.
As for tax revenue, Al Beers estimated that the deal would generate $16 million annually for Arlington Heights, $9.8 million for Cook County, and $51.3 million for Illinois.
The team did not provide details on how to make such predictions. Economists have questioned such “promotional” studies.finding that consumer spending on sports often simply supersedes other types of recreational spending.
Several studies have concluded that new sports facilities have little impact on economic activity and employment, but they have not addressed the impact of a mixed-use area like Beers suggests.
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“We are taking serious steps to assess the opportunity that was presented to us,” the team said. “The Bears remain committed to Soldier Field and will honor the terms of the lease…There is a lot of work to be done before we can close the property, and then whether we are going to develop it.
“We look forward to working with partners and key stakeholders across the Chicagoland community and the state of Illinois in the coming months.”
Bears have not issued an ultimatum that they will seek taxpayer funding to complete the deal, but they have hinted that it may be necessary by repeatedly emphasizing that the deal depends on meeting unspecified conditions.
On Tuesday evening, the Arlington Heights Village Board was set to consider approving a proposal from real estate development consultant Hunden Strategic Partners, Inc., of Chicago, to conduct economic and market analysis of the redevelopment proposal. The board was also due to consider an offer by Sam Schwartz Consulting LLC, with an office in Chicago, to study traffic and parking.
The Bears will hold a community meeting Thursday night at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights to talk about the plan.
AD Quig of the Chicago Tribune contributed.